Parents Searching For Daughter Kidnapped 51 Years Ago Get Tip She Might Have Been Spotted

Ashley Hunte
A missing person poster for Melissa Highsmith, who was kidnapped as a toddler in 1971.
Facebook | Kristin Miller

Losing a family member for whatever reason is devastating enough, but it's only made worse when there's a lack of closure. For the Highsmith family, decades of searching have led to heartache, but they haven't given up yet.

Melissa Highsmith was just 22 months old when she was kidnapped by a babysitter in 1971. Now in her 50s, the Highsmith family is hoping to find her. And they might just have a lead.

Highsmith is originally from Fort Worth, Texas.

Melissa Highsmith as a baby, circa 1970/1971.
Facebook | Kristin Miller

In 1971, the Highsmith family hired a daytime babysitter to watch over Melissa, People reports. The babysitter took Melissa, and the two have not been seen since that incident.

They don't even know the true identity of the babysitter.

While they have no idea what happened to Melissa or where she could be, the family hasn't given up hope. They launched a Facebook page in 2018 called Finding Melissa Highsmith, where other users can post any helpful information they may have.

The family recently got a tip that Melissa may be in Charleston, South Carolina.

Over the weekend of October 22nd, Melissa's brother and father, both named Jeff Highsmith, visited the Daniel Island area after receiving a tip that Melissa may be there.

"I feel like it’s a 50/50 shot, my sister is either in Charleston, or she’s not," Melissa's brother said.

"I’ll take the optimist’s point of view. So if my sister is here, we’re going to do everything we can and fight like hell to try to find her."

The tip came back in September.

A picture of Melissa as a toddler, next to an age-progression photo of what she would look like in her 50s.
Facebook | Jeff Highsmith

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children posted an age progression photo showing what Melissa may look like today. An anonymous caller contacted the center on September 9th, claiming to have seen a woman who looked like Melissa.

A month later, the family made it to Daniel Island.

A graphic showing Melissa Highsmith and the Highsmith family, with information about a candlelit vigil in her honor on October 23rd, 2022.
Facebook | Jill Meyer Miller

They held a candlelit vigil at Waterfront Park on the evening of October 23rd, 2022, in order to raise awareness for Melissa, in hopes that they might find her or someone who knows her.

They also handed out flyers in the area.

The flyer for Melissa Highsmith, who went missing 51 years ago.
Facebook | Jill Meyer Miller

"Daniel Island is where it was reported that she may have been seen, so we will go door to door and leave the fliers," Jeff said in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

They have yet to find Melissa, but they are far from giving up.

Melissa's father and brother holding the flyers they intended to hand out in Daniel Island.
Facebook | Jill Meyer Miller

Though the Highsmith family did not find Melissa during their trip to Charleston, they continue to urge the public to be on the lookout for her.

The Facebook post updated with information for the public to consider.

A photo of Melissa Highsmith's parents and siblings from the 1970s.
Facebook | Kristin Miller

In the latest post, they state that Melissa would be around 52 years old and most likely doesn't know she'd been kidnapped. In addition, "She has a cherry tomato size birthmark on the upper back under her neck."

As always, if anyone has information that could help, they are urged to reach out.

A missing person's poster showing various pictures of Melissa Highsmith as a baby, as well as age progression photos.
Facebook | Jeff Highsmith

Though the family is offering a $20,000 reward for information that would lead to finding Melissa, the most important thing is giving the Highsmith family peace of mind.

If you have information that may help find Melissa Highsmith, you can contact them through their Facebook page.